Dangerous trees removed in New Milford

Photo of Katrina Koerting

NEW MILFORD — Trees that have been tagged for months were finally being removed last week.

Tree Warden Carlos Caridad expressed safety concerns recently to the Town Council that dozens of dangerous trees are still standing.

“Dead trees that I have tagged months ago are still waiting to be removed,” he said in a separate interview. “This creates an unacceptable risk to the public and huge liability to the taxpayer.”

During the public comment period at the recent meeting, Caridad told Town Council two people had been killed in the state in the past 12 months from fallen trees and the town could be responsible if that happened in New Milford.

Brookfield and its insurance companies had to pay $7 million in 2005 to settle a lawsuit filed after a rotten oak tree fell on a minivan in 2000, killing a woman and injuring six, including five children.

Previous contracts have set a two-week requirement to remove dangerous trees once they are tagged.

Public Works Director Mike Zarba said there was a lag between the end of the fiscal year and last week when trees weren’t being removed because there wasn’t a contract in place.

The contracts are made annually where firms are selected through a bid process.

The Purchasing Authority decided to rebid the tree work at its Aug. 3 meeting to get more responses. According to the minutes, during the first bid process, “the lowest bid was disqualified and the other bids were out of line with the expected bid results.”

Last year’s contract with Emmons Tree & Landscaping Services was extended earlier this month until the Purchasing Authority chooses a firm for this year.

Emmons began working through the list last week and will be handling any new trees added each month, Zarba said.

Zarba expects the recent work to cost about $13,000.

Caridad said the mayor has said a tree warden can have a tree removed on an emergency basis, but said that approach is expensive and he would rather have a contract in place so the firm can take care of the trees on a schedule.

“Many of the trees requiring removal are ash trees,” he said. “A newly arrived non-native pest call the emerald ash borer is killing the ash trees.”

KKoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345